PITTSBURGH — The father in Mike Tomlin regrets the language he used to describe the New England Patriots during the postgame speech Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown opted to livestream on social media after a taut playoff victory over Kansas City.
The coach in Tomlin has just as big an issue with one of his team’s biggest stars forcing the Steelers to talk about something other than trying to find a way to finally beat Tom Brady when it counts.
A characteristically blunt Tomlin called Brown’s decision to broadcast to the world more than 17 minutes of Pittsburgh’s giddy locker room celebration — a move that caught Tomlin using a handful of profanities — “foolish,” ‘’selfish” and “inconsiderate.”
“Not only is it a violation of our policy, it’s a violation of league policy, both of which he knows,” Tomlin said Tuesday.
“So there are consequences to be dealt with from his perspective. We will punish him. We won’t punish us.”
Tomlin takes responsibility: Tomlin took responsibility for his choice of words, though he was unaware of being filmed as he spoke.
During Tomlin’s post-game remarks, he attached an expletive to the Patriots, who earned a full day’s head start on preparing for the Steelers by virtue of beating Houston on Saturday night, 24 hours before Pittsburgh outlasted Kansas City 18-16.
“The responsibility associated with being in this thing, just from a role model standpoint, it’s something that I personally embrace,” Tomlin said.
“It’s something that we as a team and organization embrace. So that’s why the language, specifically, in terms of the content, is regrettable.”
Brown's judgment a concern: So, too, is the action of the talented if sporadically diva-like Brown. The former sixth-round pick has evolved from a raw project into one of the NFL’s best wide receivers.
This season he became only the second player in league history to post four consecutive 100-catch seasons.
His work ethic is universally lauded even as his Q-rating has skyrocketed. Brown can be found on TV pitching everything from soda to credit cards to video games.
The player who — for reasons he hasn’t yet disclosed — occasionally refers to himself as “Ronald “ also has a devoted social media presence, with more than 1.5 million following on Instagram and an additional 650,000 on Facebook, many of whom got an eyeful and an earful as the Steelers celebrated their first trip to the AFC title game in six years.
While Tomlin has “very little concern” about the content of the video, he has plenty of concern over Brown’s lack of judgment.
“You wear on your teammates when they routinely have to answer questions about things that aren’t preparation or football-related,” Tomlin said.
“It’s our desire for him and for everyone to be great teammates, as well as great players. He is a great player. He is a hardworking player. He is respected, largely, in the locker room for those things. But incidences such as this don’t help him in that regard.”
Mixed fallout: The Steelers have grown accustomed to Brown’s flights of fancy, whether it’s posing for the Mannequin challenge while meeting with reporters, wearing eye-opening (and fine threatening) cleats or doing over-the-top touchdown celebrations.
The fallout this time around has been mixed. Long snapper Greg Warren said Monday that “AB is AB, he can do what he wants to do.”
Ben Roethlisberger expressed disappointment in Brown during the quarterback’s weekly appearance on 93.7 The Fan.
Either way, the fact that both were forced to respond to questions about Brown before the biggest game of the season only reinforces Tomlin’s point, though Tomlin stressed that Brown is hardly the only athlete capable of becoming a distraction.
“Those things don’t apply exclusively to Antonio,” Tomlin said. “It’s a global thing in regards to professional sports. I think that’s why often times you see great players move around from team to team.
“And I definitely don’t want that to be his story. I am sure he doesn’t want that to be his story. So, he has to address these things that put him and us in positions from time to time, in settings such as this, where it needs to be addressed.”
Discipline will be internal: Tomlin didn’t outline the internal discipline Brown faces other than to say it will not affect his availability this weekend.
New England (15-2) pulled away from the Steelers (13-5) in the second half of a 27-16 victory in Pittsburgh on Oct. 23, a game Roethlisberger missed while recovering from surgery on his left knee.
Roethlisberger will be around this time. And so will Brown, who will almost certainly have his phone’s camera turned off late Sunday evening regardless of the outcome.
“He has to grow from this,” Tomlin said. “He has to.”
Notes: LB James Harrison is dealing with shoulder and triceps injuries and could be limited early in the week. … TE Ladarius Green remains in the concussion protocol more than three weeks after taking a helmet-to-helmet hit against Cincinnati.